Whether you call them fireflies or lightning bugs, you probably have memories of running around with childlike glee and catching them in a jar as a kid. Find out how they can benefit the garden and how to protect this endangered species.
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Lightning bugs seem so docile. They probably go down in history as one of the most adored–and least scary–insects. Have you ever wondered if they have a role in the circle of life beyond the miraculous feat of making light in their butts?
The Benefits of Firefly Larvae
Firefly larvae are predatory hunters and are beneficial to the garden. They live on the ground and under bark. Among their favorite foods are snails and slugs. In fact, firefly larvae have even been seen following their victim’s slime trail, hoping for a tasty treat.
Photo Credit: Mark Yokoyama Flickr
How to Provide Firefly Habitat
Adult fireflies are said to feed on plant nectar, so if you’re providing pollination stations (blocks of chemical-free flower plantings), you will entice them to stick around and have their babies.
Rather than buying more Sluggo to get rid of pesky slugs, why not provide food and habitat for lightning bugs?
In fact, some are saying that fireflies are actually endangered, and it is partly due to loss of habitat. The larvae prefer undisturbed soil, so they will love your perennial, no-till, and permaculture gardens over large expanses of cultivated land.
Another way to provide habitat is through permanent garden beds with permanent walkways. The walkways, whether mulched with wood chips or seeded with clover, will provide the necessary habitat for many beneficial insects.
Next time you see fireflies lighting up the air around your yard (those are the males, by the way) give thanks for the work they’re doing to balance out the pest insects in your garden.
And don’t let the kids kill too many of them by leaving them in the jar!
Do you still see a lot of lightning bugs where you live?